My journal from the Guignol Theater in Lyon
Traditional Guignol puppet shows are presented throughout France. Both Le Théâtre La Maison de Guignol in Lyon, and Le Théâtre des marionnetees du jardin du Luxembourg in Paris are small and colorful, with beautiful sets and lighting. Each theater has its own history. I've had the good fortune to attend both.
Photo from site Les marionnettes du Luxembourg Paris. To go to the site, click here.
Guignol was created in Lyon in 1808, during hard times, by a street peddler who decided to set up shop as a dentist (tooth extractor) in the public square. In order to entertain clients, he put on puppet plays. They became so successful that he became a professional puppeteer, with plays that contained political commentary and included references to local news. The use of "guignol" in French means "buffoon", but Puppet Guignol is clever and courageous, and with him good triumphs over evil.
My photo, Lyon
The puppets are fun and funny, the plots suspenseful with twists and turns, the songs and rhymes captivating. Traditional Guignol plays contain some beating over the head with a bat, but that is not my favorite part.
Children actively participate as they respond to questions the puppets ask them, or shout out warnings to a puppet in danger. In April in Paris I saw the show Les Metamorphoses du Prince Charmant, which was created by Luxembourg theater director Francis-Claude Desarthis. Indeed charmant!
From the site, Les marionnettes du Luxembourg
Desarthis who personally greeted the audience before and after the show was obviously in love with his metier, or profession, one that he inherited from his father. In his words:
"A l'âge heureux des petits enfants, l'imagination voyage à tire des ailes et tout paraît vrai et facile. Les comédiens de bois aux visage divers sont pour eux la personnification de leurs rêves, leur joie pure, leurs rires frais et naïfs, sont la pluie belle récompense pour moi qui anime des marionnettes, personnages de légende venus du pays des fées."